I was asked these simple questions on the alcoholism assessment intake, as my life unraveled around me.
1. Have you ever felt you should cut down on your drinking?
2. Have people annoyed you by criticizing your drinking?
3. Have you ever felt bad or guilty about your drinking?
4. Have you ever had a drink first thing in the morning to steady your nerves or to get rid of a hangover (eye-opener)?
I know for me, I was able to answer yes to all four of these questions at the end of my active drinking career. I was Pastoring in a church, finding hope in a bottle, and not looking to the Savior of the universe for sustaining life, even though I was pointing others to Him.
If you are a Pastor and you could answer even two of these questions with “Yes” it is time to seek help. Find it professionally (clinical), find it in accountability (with those you trust), and find it communally (with a group that understands). When you pursue help these three ways, I believe there is hope and life that is available even in a bleak situation.
Clinical, Professional Help
There are people that need to do a series of inpatient treatment visits where they are separated from the outside world for a period of time for 30-90 days. This may be to detox. If you have been drinking for days/years on end and your body is physically addicted to the substance. With help, what you will find is that you will learn so much about yourself, addiction, and behavioral awareness. You’ll be able to walk away from the clinical help with tools to combat the addiction that you have succumbed to, for, in my case, years.
This one is tricky as a Pastor. Most Pastors have their ‘accountability partner’ that should know everything about them. In my case, I was simply lying to mine. I wasn’t giving him straight answers. He wasn’t aware of the ongoing struggle that I was secretly facing inside. If you have someone that you have committed to being completely honest with, do it today. It’s a start to a trajectory on a road to recovery. I have heard from many Pastors that accountability is difficult to find in the churches that they are leading. It may be worth reaching out to another Pastor and just being completely honest with them regarding your current life trajectory in the area of alcohol.
The church should be set up in such a way that you would be able to go to a church body and gain this sort of help. In most cases, however, it is not. The church is set up so that the leaders are not able to be honest with the congregation for they would lose too much in terms of influence, power, or money. I understand this and wish that it were different. In most cases, it is not. Find a group of alcoholics through “AA” or another addiction group that is meeting either in, or outside your local community. Attend one. See what happens in your life when you are gathered with people agreed upon the goal of not drinking. It’s dangerous, but it may be life saving for you.
If you are a Pastor and are reading this, reach out. I’ll be anonymous and probably don’t know you. I’ll listen. I know the struggle you face as I lived it.